Placas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo has only a week left on its limited run at Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights, which is a pity.
It is a rough, poetical work about the plights of Salvadoran immigrants, driven from their homeland by the unending cycle of violence and civil war, who come to this country in an effort to start new lives and find themselves drawn into the nation’s gang culture.
Considering the current debate about immigration going on in this most toxic period of political campaigning, it would benefit many to experience this tale of the lives that exist beneath the demigods’ rhetoric.
The story as woven by playwright Paul S. Flores is straightforward and sparse.
Fausto (Ricardo Salinas) has finished serving a nine year sentence and is determined to restart the life he lost while in prison with his common law wife Claudia (Zilah Mendoza) and to try to save his son Edgar (Xavi Moreno) from following the path he did from the gangs to the cell.
As part of his probation, Fausto is undertaking laser removal of his gang tattoos.
Fausto, having sold his soul, is now trying to buy it back by burning off his own flesh one inch at a time, like a serpent shedding its old skin for a new one.
Fausto’s task is not an easy one.
Constantly harassed by Orozco (Eric Aviles) a Salvadoran on the LAPD, Fausto finds his son is already under the sway of Largo (Emiliano Torres) the local gang leader, and reluctant to let this “father” he’s never known into his life.
But Fausto is determined, “If you haven’t ate dirt,” he remarks, “you don’t know God.”
The drama is set to show that Fausto is not the serpent in the act of renewal, but Marsyas whose debt to the Gods was paid with his flesh.
Flores in the writing of the piece interviewed over a hundred gang members and their families and this is reflected in the grittiness of the language, and his understanding of the culture.
Director Fidel Gomez presents a bare bones production, the starkness of which only serves in heightening the humanity of the work’s characters.
It is the cast that provides the most heat to this fire.
Aviles, Torres as well as Edgar Barboza and Sarita Ocón (who also does a superb job on designing the casts’ tattoos) are strong and compelling and meet the demands of multiple roles with aplomb.
But as the family at the center of the storm, Salinas, Mendoza and Moreno, wins the audience over with the humanity they infuse into their roles.
Salinas, who along with Richard Montoya and Herbert Sigüenza founded the San Francisco performance troupe Culture Clash in the ‘80s, turns in a sincere and moving performance as Fausto; which in and of itself would be reason enough for me to recommend this show.
And let me say a word about the venue, Casa 0101; a tip of the hat, a big tip, goes out to Josefina Lopez (Real Women Have Curves), who established this wonderful 99-seat theatre and gallery in 2000 in order to bring the arts to the neighborhood she grew up in.
Thank you Ms. Lopez for an amazing space, and thank you for giving back to this city we love.
♦ ♦ ♦
PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo
Limited Run: February 18, 2016 – February 28, 2016
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 5 PM
At CASA 0101 Theater, 2102 East First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033
For Tickets and Additional Information Call
323-263-7684 or click HERE.